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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"


child belonged to the State and not to the parents, and would
have nothing to do with any education which did not make loyalty
to the State its main concern. Apart from an appreciation of the
necessity of education for all, the only points on which there could
be said to be considerable general agreement were the institution
of national festivals for the inculcation of patriotism, the pro-
duction of elementary textbooks by the State, and the suppression
of local dialects in favour of standard French. In the end the
Convention in sheer weariness accepted a most meagre scheme in
1795, which made provision for the teaching of reading, writing,
arithmetic and republican morality in one or more schools in each
canton, but left the teacher wholly dependent on the fees paid
by his pupils.

But though the grand ideals of the Revolution had such an
unworthy issue, the dreams and the visions were not all in vain.
Some of them took practical form in the Napoleonic reconstruction:
others continued to inspire later efforts. One has but to consider
the principles and suggestions of a man like Condorcet—the most
outstanding educational thinker produced by the Revolution—to
see how much the ideas of this time of storm and stress counted
for in the subsequent developments of French education. The
Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794) had won distinction as a
mathematician before entering politics ; and in his discussion of
educational questions he combined the enthusiasm of the visionary
with the sanity of the scientist. This is the distinguishing feature
of the Memoirs he wrote on public instruction in the first years of
the Revolution, and again of the Report he was instructed to prepare
for the Assembly in 1792. He has a clear-cut plan for a system
of national education, not unlike that of Rolland, but before he
broaches his specific proposals he sets forth the essential principles
on which his plan is based. It was impossible for him to take for
granted, as La Chalotais and his disciples had done, that national
education is necessarily good. The Revolution had revived the
sense of antagonism between State and individual which Rousseau
had brought to clear consciousness ; and at the very outset he
has to justify national education by showing that it is not really
incompatible with liberty and equality. His task is all the harder
because he has to admit not only that men are unequal in original
capacity, but that education greatly accentuates the inequality.
Yet he does not hesitate to maintain that the right kind of education